When Graham Hey was working on his parents’ pig farm in Huddersfield back in the late 70’s and 80’s little did he know that one day his work would be used by Hollywood’s finest. After all, he left school with few qualifications and no real idea about what he wanted to do in life. We caught up with the Yorkshire born novelist and screenwriter to find out just what happened.
I knew that farming wasn’t for me,” says Graham, but there was little choice back then, and the careers teacher held out little hope for me! All I knew is that I quite liked drawing and writing.”
As he worked on the farm, he began jotting down jokes and comedy sketches, and then sent masses of them to the BBC. “I never, ever got a reply. But then again, I wasn’t from Oxford or Cambridge!” he laughs.
After several years of “getting nowhere fast”, he sold his first scripts to comics, including Viz, which was selling over a million copies per issue at the time. Before long he was writing a few comedy articles for magazines, and then got a call from the editor of the Daily Star. “He told me that he was a big fan of my work and invited me to write a weekly comedy section.”
But when did Hollywood call, I ask?
“Well, that was a strange story. I’d started selling eBooks of my jokes online, as lots of my jokes were being stolen by comedians, so I thought I might as well make some money out of them myself. Then, out of the blue I got a call from a writer who wanted to use my comedy writing skills – but he first told me I had to sign a non-disclosure agreement. I should have twigged that this guy was a ‘serious’ professional. After I’d signed it, I realised that he was a multiple Oscar-nominated writer, and his last three movies had been worldwide box office hits!
“Of course, I’m not able to publicly discuss my work, but at least I have contracts to prove it!”
So how did it feel to be the secret ghost-writer for one of Hollywood’s top writers?
“Amazing, and the great thing was, he absolutely loved my work – which was the most satisfying thing of all.”
After spending 18 months in the USA, he moved back to Pocklington near York where he now works on his novels and has two screenplays almost completed.
“I’m just about to finish my second screenplay – another rom-com, this time set in the glamorous location of Leeds – which is based on the story of my third novel. Fortunately, I already have interest from a movie production company, so fingers crossed!”
What are the chances of your screenplay being made into a movie?
“Well, very high I hope, because my girlfriend has already bought an outfit ready for the Oscar’s ceremony!”
How satisfying is it to be writing on behalf of someone else? “Well, it’s satisfying in the sense that the ‘client’ is pleased with your work and it’s actually used, but I’d much prefer to write my own ideas from scratch and have them be successful. But it’s not easy earning a living as a writer, so any work is gratefully received!”
“MY GIRLFRIEND HAS ALREADY BOUGHT AN OUTFIT READY FOR THE OSCAR’S CEREMONY”
The Hollywood connection led to Graham getting a publishing deal with independent publishing house Chronos, who are based in Lincoln. “Luckily, the CEO Taryn Johnston loved my work, and guided me through the process. I’d begun working on my first novel ten years earlier but had shelved it because I didn’t have total confidence in it. Actually, it was my best friend Bruce, himself a great writer, who encouraged me to finish it. It needed a big re-write but Let’s Hear it for the Boy, a rom-com, was launched in 2019 and was set in Huddersfield.”
Graham’s latest novel called Confessions of an Invisible Man has just been released to rave reviews. It’s the story of a young man who is going to be invisible for exactly seven days – and he plans to woo the girl at work who treats him like he’s invisible all the time! It’s a rom com with a difference. The lead man is see-through!
So, your novel writing seems to be attracting an audience and you’ve got a couple of movie projects under way… but do you ever think back to the time when no-one wanted to use your work?
“Yeah, sometimes I think it would have been easier working on the farm!” says Graham, smiling, “but I think I’ve been reasonably lucky so far. Most writers trying to write a novel are trying to produce their 80,000 words whilst working full-time, which can often take years. And then it’s quite possible that no-one’s interested! But just because you aren’t an immediate success doesn’t mean that your work is not good enough. I’m still waiting to hear back from the BBC from 1989!”